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Morrisons vicariously liable for former employee’s actions in disclosing personal data of 5,000 employees

Makbool Javaid

In WM Morrison Supermarkets PLC v Various Claimants, Skelton (S), an auditor, had a grudge against Morrisons because of what he perceived to be unfair disciplinary action against him. He copied payroll data relating to 99,998 Morrisons’ employees to a USB stick and then posted their personal details online. S sent a CD containing a copy of the data to three newspapers, who did not publish it, but told Morrisons, who took the website down. The High Court upheld a claim by 5,518 employees that Morrisons was vicariously liable for S’s wrongful conduct as his role was to handle payroll data and there had been a seamless and continuous sequence of events involving the planning and disclosure of the data, meaning there was a sufficiently close connection between S’s job and his wrongful conduct to make Morrisons vicariously liable. The Court of Appeal dismissed Morrisons’ appeal. S had planned the data disclosure process which was not disconnected by time, place and nature from his employment. There was an uninterrupted thread that linked his work to the disclosure and Morrisons was vicariously liable.

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